Brooklyn's Gay Leadership Meets With Senator Hillary Clinton; Following New Jersey Same Sex Marriage Ruling, Senator Clinton Says "Equal Benefits Protections Are a Winner"

The co-president of Brooklyn's Lambda Independent Democrats Gary Parker convened a meeting this evening with citywide leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Parker the founder and coordinator of Greater Voices, the coalition of New York City's progressive lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political clubs called on Senator Clinton to join the LGBT community in their struggle for equality and full recognition of same-sex relationships.

The meeting commenced just two hours after the announcement of New Jersey's historic same sex marriage case. Local advocates voiced their concern with Senator Clinton's lack of support for gay marriage, pointing out the entire Democratic statewide ticket, Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson Andrew Cuomo and Alan Hevesi all support civil marriage equality for the LGBT community.

In an emotional and at times tearful discussion, members of the LGBT described the importance of same-sex marriages being recognized. Senator Clinton noted with dismay that the recently deceased first openly gay member of Congress Rep. Gerry Studds' life partner will not receiving any federal benefits upon his death as he would have if they had been in an a traditional hetro-sexual marriage.

Senator Clinton stated, "Equal benefits protections are a winner" in giving her political analysis of the afternoon ruling in New Jersey that gay couples are entitled to the same legal rights and financial benefits as heterosexual couples. She also promised to fight to abolish the military's don't ask, don't tell policy which she said has deprived the army of qualified soldiers who want to serve their country.

Other issues of concern discussed at the meeting included adding protections for the transgender community in the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the Hate Crimes bill. The Senator made no commitment on these issues but promised to study them.

Parker expressed satisfaction with the meeting: "It took a lot of perseverance to schedule this meeting. But the community felt it was important to sit down with the Senator, both to thank her for her leadership on behalf of LGBT New Yorkers, for example on Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act Reauthorization, and also to talk turkey about our differences on civil marriage."

The gay political clubs that will be represented at the meeting include: Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, Out People of Color Political Action Club, Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, Staten Island Stonewall, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Stonewall Democrats of New York City, and Lambda Democrats of the Bronx.

"Gary deserves a lot of credit for this meeting. Following the Empire State Pride Agenda's criticism of Senator Clinton on the marriage issue earlier in the year, there were months of delicate negotiations to make sure Hillary Clinton heard from her LGBT constituents before the general election," said Christopher Murray, LID's other Co-President "Gary did a great job running the meeting and keeping things positive and focused on finding common ground."

Gay elected officials attending the meeting included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, State Senator Thomas K. Duane, Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick, Assemblymember Daniel J. O'Donnell, as well as several State Committee members and District Leaders, including LID's Alan Fleishman.

Brooklyn District Leader Fleishman said of the meeting with Senator Clinton, "Hillary Clinton has been a forceful advocate for many of the concerns of LGBT New Yorkers and we are lucky to have her as our Senator. I wish she would enthusiastically support same sex marriage. but I don't question her commitment to equality for LGBT New Yorkers. By supporting equal benefits she is is moving in the right direction and it is my hope that some day soon she will support civil marriage for all."

LID's Parker and Murray had a similar meeting on Friday, October 13, 2006 with Assemblymember Vito J. Lopez where the Brooklyn Democratic Party leader came out publicly in favor of civil marriage for gays.

Parker said "We're pleased that LID is taking the lead in working with our elected officials to move the civil marriage issue forward. Brooklyn's gay families deserve nothing less than full equality under the law and LID is leading the charge to Albany to make this a reality."

LID is Brooklyn's oldest LGBT organization and will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary in 2008.

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